Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tough Fishing the Past Few Days

I don't know if we zigged when should have zagged, but haven't found the temperature breaks and floaters offshore.  Part of that is due to the last cold front pushing cold water out.  We saw water temperatures on the ups and downs drop a couple of degrees.  The free sea surface temperature data we get from Hotspots gets blanked out by cloud cover but there are some composite charts available from NASA which you can use with Google Earth.  So I am playing around with that to see If I can make that easier to use.  The color scale they use is pretty course, but that temperature break is about 27 miles south and we stopped a few miles short of that the other day in order to get back in shore in time to do something else.  The something else, the old stand by rock piles was slower than all get out other than grouper we couldn't keep anyway, so the trip sucked in my opinion.

We did have a couple of knock downs, likely by sailfish in my opinion, but I never got to see what was spraying the bait.  Since the Lady Catherine is docked near Vaca Cut, we try not to run too far West, but the current has been pretty weak meaning it isn't all that easy to get a bite going.  I am not sure what the guys want to do tomorrow, but if it is dolphin and tuna we probably will have a lone run without much time to change plans.  If they want a shot at the sailfish, then we have plenty of back up plans.  Most of the bad trips I have is when we roll the dice and go for the hero fish which is part of fishing, but slow doesn't impress the folks at the dock.

Ballyhoo on the ocean side have also been scarce and those live wigglers can really come in handy.  Winds are supposed to be nice in the morning so if that is right we might get some nice rollers that get the sailfish tailing.  In any case, no bragging fish the past two days but there have been a fair number of sails caught close and some nice dolphin, wahoo and tuna if you get out far enough.  In the middle is just about dead.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Last Cold Front?

The winds picked up just enough to make fishing more of a challenge.  We had two trips on the Lady Catherine, and offshore and a Bay Side and both were slower than normal.  Offshore the hump was pretty dead but we found fish about 2 miles west of the hump.  When we could catch up with them we caught a few but it was hard getting the fish behind the boat in pretty confused seas.

Bay Side we had wind against current and anchoring issues.  We would get set up about right and catch a nice mixed bag until the the wind picked up then we had to hunt for another spot.  We ended up with a nice mixed bag of mainly Mangrove with a few 'tail and Porgies, but it wasn't a chamber of commerce kind of trip.  The last day was a blow out which was find with my because my knees and back could use a little break.

It looks like we have some better weather coming so we should be back out there tomorrow.  Since there are a few sailfish moving through maybe we can get lucky.

If this is the last cold front, then Dolphin should be the main event for a while.  April, May and June are the big Dolphin months along with Tarpon, Permit and a few others.  Then things shift into Snapper with the spawn starting in June depending on the moon and lasting until August at times.  In a couple of days Grouper will open up finally which will give us another fall back species for the cleaning table center piece.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lady Catherine - Hump Trip

Not bad.  The bite was pretty stead all day but never really crazy.  We ended up with about 10 Blackfin Tuna, three Skipjack Tuna and three dolphin.  The crew had a great time.  It is fairly rare to get light a variable winds in March.  The schoolie dolphin were finicky or we would have had lots more fish.

I have several trips coming up on the Lady Catherine and most should be trolling so hopefully we will get a shot at some of the really big dolphin that tend to cruise through this time of year.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas

Monday, March 23, 2015

Rentals - Beach Front and Otherwise

As most of the regulars know beachfront rentals are a bit rare and pricy in the Keys probably because real beaches are a bit rare.  Canal front is the most common rental choice because most of my regulars fish.  My regulars though have significant others that might not be quite as avid fishermen, so other amenities are desired.  I have been meaning to update my Where to Stay post, a comment has inspired me to get off my butt.

For the beach goers in Marathon, favorite  rentals are in Key Colony Beach and have a Cabana club membership, Coco Plum and Sombrero Beach areas.

VRBO which stands for Vacation Rental By Owner, handles a lot of the Key Colony Beach (KCB) rental properties and on the whole has an excellent reputation.  The Cabana Club has a special appeal for those who like a real beach but really like a fresh water swimming pool and full bar close by.  KCB isn't the only beach in town.  Sombrero beach is public but there a several nice homes for rent within a minute's walk  Coca Plum Beach, also public and a bit more off the beaten path has homes for rent close by.  These often have canal front for the fishermen and a short walk for the beach goers.  Sombrero rentals can have a very short walk to one of the most popular public beaches with a view as well.

Coco Plum Beach and Tennis Club has a "classic" private beach with accommodations that have a good reputation.  There are quite a few homes for rent that have smaller private beaches mainly on the Bay Side.

Tranquility Bay, Indigo Reef, Banana Bay and The Hammocks are Bay Side and each have their following. The Hammocks was formerly a hotel that has been converted to time share as part of Blue Green Resorts.  There is not much of a beach there due to water sports and sport fishing docks, but they do have a small beach with hammocks of course, located close to the pool and Tiki Bar.  If you are not so much into night life, Tranquility Bay and Indigo Reef have a no partying after Ten clause  Most of Marathon tends to roll up the sidewalks after ten except for weekends in season when a few places adopt a 'til whenever policy.

There are quite a few other resorts/hotels in the area that have a big following  Sea Scape resort, The Reef at Marthon, Kingsail Resort motel, Holiday Inn Express Marathon and the new Marathon Hyatt Place/Faro Blanco Resort are just a few of the more popular places to stay.

Pet friendly can be an issue at times with some of the resorts.  They appear to have a limited number of pet friendly rooms which can limit room views that are available to pet owners.  Starting with private rentals is often the best way to go in this case.  VRBO has a good number of pet friendly listings and Trip Adviser can have helpful reviews and additional pictures.

Since most of the Keys natural shore line is mangroves and cap rock there are more water front homes with this type of "beach".  Some folks love it, some want the "classic" sand beach.  In the winter on the Bay Side, natural can be bay grass that smells a bit like rotting eggs.  So if you want a "clean" beach in winter think about ocean side.  In the summer the winds are more from the south which brings in jellyfish.  So if you aren't a jellyfish fan consider Bay Side in the summer.

For big parties and family reunions, there are quite a few large homes/estates available for weekly and monthly rental.  Some of the monthly rentals are worth a look even if you aren't planning to stay the full month.  Due to zoning restrictions some of the nicer areas don't allow weekly rentals and you can get a deal on 3 plus bedrooms with dock, sometimes a boat or kayaks pool private beach and lots of other stuff.  there are some great homes on Grassy and the Torch Keys that are monthly only.

For serious fishermen, there are also no frills rentals on canals with plenty of extras just older and not so large.  Some park model RV/trailers are comfortable, have nice docks and are located close to some great fishing.

Most of my customers rent or bring their own boats and fishing gear, but I do have a charter boat available, the Lady Catherine run by Capt. David or Capt. Jim, where I mate for parties less that 7 people.  The Lady Catherine can accommodate up to 18 people mainly for dive trips and sight seeing cruises, but fishes up to 10 people pretty well.  Rental Boats are generally a better value for the serious fisherman that likes to do it himself.  Some though like to hire me every day so they can do the fishing not the driving.  I haven't updated that general rental information in a while but other than new equipment it is still pretty current.

The Lady Catherine sunset cruise is a tour of Sister's Creek and Boot Key Harbor with sun set viewing by the historic Seven Mile Bridge.   With a large enough party the sunset cruise is about the least expensive way to get out on the water.  The next low cost way to get out on the water are the local snorkel boats like The Spirit that  generally do 3 to 4 hour trips to Sombrero Key reef.  These trips are around $25 per person but you can find a $5 off discount without too much trouble.

Tarpon fishing is a big deal down here and there are lots of good tarpon guides.  Capt. David runs tarpon trips  with the smaller Lady Catherine boat and Capt. Jeff Knapp is another I recommend, but there are dozens of good tarpon guides.  I try to avoid tarpon trips myself, but have shown a few the basics.

There is a lot more I cannot add in this post, but this should give you a good start.  Do remember the winter/summer considerations for beach front though.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas

Friday, March 20, 2015

Some other guides and offshore report

I like my gig in Marathon and would really rather not run too far up or down the Keys if I don't have to.  I had been looking for other guides in the Islamarada area and finally found a "reluctant" guide for your boat kinda stuff.  His handle is relentless39 on the Florida Sportsman Fishing Forum and while he prefers to fish his own boat he will do guide trips on your boat.

I do take trips south of Marathon down to Bahia Honda but try not to go much further south than the Torch Keys.  Pinerwahoo is the handle of another guide down that way that can help you out in that direction.

It isn't that I don't know how to fish those areas as much as I don't stay on top of the changes outside of the Marathon area that much.  Having a more local guide means better local knowledge which is the whole idea of hiring a guide.  For Fishing 101, I am teaching the bare bones basics which which is good for any place in the Keys, but it costs time and money to drive all over the place so, you should get a better deal with a more local guy.

On another note I was forced to make a new batch of Dallas Darts so I have those available in the purple and blank Tuna color and Blue and Silver everything else color.  Some folks like red and black but the quality of the last batch of red and black skirts I bought was so bad I am avoiding them.  Skirt quality btw are the reason I don't make more to keep in stock.  Sometimes the skirts are real heat sensitive so if you leave them in a car with the windows up things can go south.

Offshore for Dolphin is starting to pick up but you probably will have to head way south for a while.  A good weed line was found in 2500 foot of water yesterday which is about 30 miles south of the beach.  Some fish are being caught closer in but they are mainly schoolies.   The fish out deep are mainly heavy lifters and gaffers.  I use my Darts as a hunting tool to find fish then switch to pitch baits or rigged natural baits once I find the bigger fish.  The fish don't understand that so sometimes I get the big ones on the Darts and the small ones on the rigged baits.  Fish love to make a liar out of me, but as long as something is getting hooked up I am fine with it.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Happy Graduates

Once in a while my fishing 101 students actually remember to send me some pictures.

Not bad huh?

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas

Offshore and some inshore

Had a Fishing 101 with trolling for Dolphin and a quick patch and rock pile intro.  Had to run all the way to the wall for the dolphin which isn't unusual for this time of the year but the result weren't all that great.  We did manage a gaffer bull and a respectable schoolie, but we should have seen a lot more.  Only found one floater though and the weeds were scattered.  Mr. Frigate Bird found the fish for us.

Patches were also a bit slow, but we got three nice Hogfish, respectable Mangroves and some nice Porgies.  The weather though was beautiful with light and variable winds and temperatures in the 70s.  The warmest water we found was 77.5 degrees.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Basic Stuff

I have been planning on reorganizing the blog for about 5 years now.  It'll wait.  I do want to add a few things I recommend in emails to customers.

Gear:  I recommend a 20 pound class spinning outfit with clear mono if possible for most general fishing.  That should have a line capacity of ~200 yards.  15 to 25 pound is fine if that is what you have.

For trolling, bottom, shark etc. I recommend 30 to 60 pound conventional outfits with line capacity greater than 300 yards.  I also recommend clear mono because of the versatility.  

leader material.  30# and 80# monel wire for toothy critters and 15# to 60# mono and/or flouro for not so toothy critters.  

Hooks:  you need a fairly large assortment of sizes from 10 for bait to 7/0 for offshore.  10,4,2,2/0,4/0 and 7/0 are pretty basic in J hooks.  For circles, 7/0 and 11/0 thin wire cover most situations.  Sabiki rigs size 8 or 10 can be useful, but most often single hook bait rigs.

Note that doesn't mention weights.  I use mainly smaller egg sinkers, 1/4 oz to 1 oz on something called a knocker rig.  All that is an egg sinker on the line with a hook sized for the bait.  The eye of the hook needs to be large enough that the egg sinker doesn't slide down the shank.  The lead can slide on the line so that you can let a fish run without feeling the weight very much and once you get the hang of it you can let the bait slide a ways from the lead just like there is a leader.  Note also that clear mono works best with this rig and means less work re-rigging.  If you like making catching more like work, by all means use something more complicated.

Without the weight you have a freeline rig.  That's sports fans, you tie a hook on you line and fish.  This also is much easier with clear mono on your spool.  If you are a braid fan just add a leader about as long as the depth you are fishing.  That sounds like work to me so I use clear mono.

On occasion you may need a little more than just a hook for freelining.  Small pinch weights or very small jig head can come in handy.  On other occasions you might need a short length of thin wire, that would be the 30# or 40# monel which is a type of stainless steel.  For that you need to know a haywire twist and either an Albright, Dog Knot or you can add small barrel swivel.  By small I mean size 10, which is about the smallest I can see to get the line through.  If my eyes were better I would go smaller.  The reason for small is when freelining you want to control the sink rate as you let the line run freely with the current.  Get it?  Run freely with the current aka freelining.  This is so you bait drifts and sinks about the same rate as that expensive chum you have in a landing net size chum bag drifts.  

The landing net chum bag is mainly for deeper water, over 40 foot deep.  If you want to catch fish cheap you can fish shallower and use a smaller mesh bag.  If you want to fish real cheap, stick with the knocker rig and just fish some sexy bottom.

There is a lot of great bottom in the Keys.  One of my main lessons is showing folks how to use their bottom finder so they can tell bottom from sexy bottom.  Sexy bottom has more profiles, that would be ups and downs with more blur, that would be fish and sea fans and hopefully lots of fish suspended off the bottom blur.  If you know your bottom machine real well, you can tell to a point what kind of fish you are marking provided you know a bit about the habits of Keys fish.  

On the rock piles, that would be piles of rock typically in Hawks Channel, in 20 to 20 foot you can have a variety of very high quality eating fish, Snapper, Lanes, Mangrove, Mutton, Yellowtail; Hogfish; Porgies, several flavors; Grouper, Black, Gag and Red mainly; Toro or big Eye snapper which aren't bad; Triggerfish; Grunts if you are into panfish, but don't expect to impress many at the dock with your catch plus the occasional Mackerel, Cero, Spanish or King; Cobia; Permit; Pompano and likely a half dozen more.  Other than that the rockpiles are pretty boring.

On the patches, that would be patches of coral just inside the reef proper in 20 to 30 foot of water, you have the same critters plus a few more like Schoolmaster Snapper to replace the Lanes and pelagic fish that tend to get lost fairly often in the summer.  

On the reef proper, that would be in the 40 to 100 foot range, you pretty much have one stop shopping if you have plenty of chum, a decent current and some patience.  This seems to be my favorite older guy fishing spot.  You don't have to burn much gas and only have to pull the anchor once while you catch plenty for dinner and have a shot at anything up to and including sailfish.  

All of these start with finding that sexy bottom, knowing your current, having fresh and a variety of bait, along with very basic terminal tackle.  As far as bait, fresh is best and live is fresher.  That means you are ahead of the game with a working live well, a cast net and some starter live bait like pinfish, pilchards, shrimp or any number small bait including crabs.  

Catching bait would be my second main lesson.  Sabiki rigs are great for some things but it is hard to beat a single size 10 long shank hook and a pinch weight with a tiny bit of bait.  Squid tentacles make great bait and believe it or not that bag of fake blood worms you never found a use for also work quite well.  I had a bag of those blood worms last me about two years, that is how small you need to cut the bait.  If you remove the pinch weight and add a very small float, you have a balleyhoo rig.  You use that to catch the ballyhoo until they get stupid enough to throw a cast net over.  Stupid ballyhoo are close to the boat and on the surface so you can reach them and when they spook the jump up into the net instead of diving under the net.  

If you go out without bait thinking you will catch plenty, you will probably learn about Murphy's law.  So to avoid Murphy, take some frozen or fresh balleyhoo, shrimp and in a pinch, squid to make sure you are fishing.  

I have my issues with squid other than pinfish bait.  It seems anytime I break out the squid the trash fish come running.  That is probably just me, but I recommend very judicious use of the Calamari.  If you are targeting Yellowtail Snapper and have the big bucks, Silversides aka Spearing are a fantastic bait.  If you are cheap like me, thin bait strips made from balleyhoo or other white bait make a great Silverside imitation.  

In mainly calm weather, rolled oats make a great chum enhancer.  The oats sink more slowly bringing the fish closer to the surface and your boat.  The object of chumming is to bring fish to the boat and out of the bottom where the bigger ones tend to break you off.  The oats are mainly for the Yellowtail which sometimes forget to read my posts.  On an average Yellowtail day they come up pretty quick and you limit out in a couple of hours.  For some folks average means never seeing a 'tail, which is likely due to not finding sexy bottom, not having a decent current, not having fresh bait and/or fishing with too much weight or that wonderful braided line.  

Now I am going to put this post under fishing basics and knocker rig so more people can find it.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Rats, a Blurry Picture

This crew had a fun half day on the Lady Catherine even if we did have to hide from the wind on the bay side.  Those are Mutton Snapper they are holding.   The bay side banks and the bridge hard to figure out sometimes.  Still, you almost always catch fish.  Today instead of Hogfish and Porgies it was legal Muttons and respectable Mangrove Snapper.  they also played with a number of sharks and a large Jack Crevalle.   Jack Crevalle aren't much on the table but since the ladies had never tangled with one they had a bit of fun.

Now I get a couple of days off to rest my bones then hopefully we will get a few fair weather trips for a change.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas

Friday, March 13, 2015

Still Breezy

Have been neglecting my photograph duties.  I have been fishing, mainly half days because of the winds which limit the catching to a tide most of the time.  If you can find some clean water the Seven Mile Bridge has been pretty productive.  Decent mangroves, a few Hogfish, porgies, yellow jacks and of course sharks.  The bay water temperatures have warmed up enough that Spanish Mackeral are getting hard to find, but there are some nice Sea Trout and Ceros to take up the slack.  I haven't been doing any reef or ocean side stuff because of the winds and timing of my trips.  There is a calm day or two every week but I haven't hooked up with an offshore group on those days.

In general, fishing reports are getting a bit more normal.  There was a short stretch there when it seemed everyone sucked.  In fact I haven't heard so many poor reports on the radio in some time.  that changed when the bait situation got a bit more normal.  I have been seeing more mullet in the canals and actually getting the cast net wet on balleyhoo for a change.  Pilchards are easier to find but they still can be a PITA at times.

There have been reports of Wahoo from some of the bigger boats that are getting offshore along with decent size schoolie dolphin and tuna, mainly skippies.  I don't have a problem with skippies myself and I doubt most would if they gave them a fair taste test.  Bleeding the bigger ones definitely helps out on the flavor.  The slammer dolphin will likely start moving through the end of this month to the middle of the next if they stay true to form.  I generally have to run pretty far to get into the big ones early in the season but if the Gulf Stream pushes in close that will save some fuel money.

Most of the tarpon guides are getting booked pretty regular and are catching fish but it doesn't look like the migration is in full swing just yet.  That is normally more an April start thing but with the warmer water temperatures could be any time now.

I have another half day tomorrow which will probably be a combination shark and mixed bag.  Some of the mixed bag on the shark trips are Mutton Snapper that are legal 16 to 20 inches.  Not huge fish by any means but tasty.  It also looks like this may be the year of the Porgie since they have been showing up just about everywhere.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Black Fin Tuna on the Darts

I have a couple posts waiting on photographic evidence.  The guys I took out in the depths of my cold final got weather to visit the Marathon Hump on Thursday.  I gave them a couple of purple and black darts with the very complicated instructions of just pull them.  They end up with about 20 black fin and a skippy, but managed to lose the darts to a shark or two.  So I reloaded them today.

In any case the report is that a bit larger black fin have finally moved in.  They estimated these to be about 5 pounds average with a few pushing ten pounds.  That is a long way from 30 plus pounders but compared to the dinks I have been catching a major improvement.

I still haven't heard any good sailfish reports and the cobia are becoming a bit scarce compared to last month.  The Gulf Stream pushed in close this week and the pilchards are thick so that might change.  March can be a bit difficult with some fishing heading out while others head in, but tarpon seem to be acting normal even if the mullet are not.

I have heard a few encouraging dolphin reports but they required a good bit of fuel since most where past the wall.  The winds should be shifting more to the south east this month which should bring them in closer.

Trip wise it has been weird as usual.  We started off with a bang but that petered out so my book is open until the end of the month.  Other than sucking on that last deep bay trip though fishing has been pretty fair if you go with the flow.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas